Byline Times’ New Findings Reveal ‘Epidemic of Sexual Abuse in Hospital Settings’
New data from the Metropolitan Police shows the scale of sexual violence in London’s hospitals
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The Metropolitan Police has recorded 1,753 sexual offences in hospitals since January 2019, new data obtained by Byline Times can reveal.
The findings come after the Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Wes Streeting called for the NHS to “urgently investigate” the scale of sexual violence in hospitals, after Byline Times revealed more than 4,000 sexual offences over four years had been reported to police forces in England and Wales.
The sexual offences recorded across NHS premises between January 2019 and September 2022 included 511 rapes. None resulted in a charge or summons. The overall rate for rape charges in the Met Police is 2.7%. A further 1,204 other sexual offences, such as assault or harassment, were reported.
New data from Kent Police reveals another 200 sexual offences taking place in hospital settings, including 60 rapes. Of these, five of the sexual offences led to a charge, or 2.5%. None of the rapes led to a charge or summons.
“These latest figures reveal an epidemic of sexual abuse in hospital settings and are yet further evidence that the NHS and Government need to take urgent action to improve safety for patients and staff,” Liberal Democrat deputy leader and health spokesperson Daisy Cooper told Byline Times.
“Hospitals should be safe havens for patients, not the setting for traumatic events. Not only are these crimes taking place, but the lack of charges shows that victims aren’t even getting justice.”
The new information brings the total number of sexual offences in hospital settings recorded by police in England and Wales across the four years to 6,061.
This includes sexual offences against girls aged under 13. Where data was provided, women were overwhelmingly the victims and men the majority of the alleged perpetrators.
In response to this newspaper’s original findings, Streeting said: “Hospitals ought to be safe places for patients and staff, but these disturbing findings show that is not the case for far too many people. The NHS should urgently investigate why these disgusting crimes are allowed to happen and on such a widespread scale.”
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Questions in the House
In early December, Cooper raised a question in the House of Commons regarding sexual violence in medical settings.
Having described Byline Times’ findings as “horrifying”, she asked the Women’s Health Minister Maria Caulfield to meet with her to discuss the need to end a five-year time limit on reports to the General Medical Council (GMC) regarding sexual and other forms of misconduct.
Currently, anyone wishing to make a complaint about a medical professional to the GMC must do so within five years of the alleged incident, unless there is a strong public interest argument.
Cooper represents a constituent who alleges she was a victim of sexual misconduct by a medical professional and yet cannot make a complaint to the GMC about her perpetrator due to the limitations imposed by the five-year rule.
She asked Caulfied whether there were plans to scrap the rule and invited Caulfield to meet her so the pair could discuss how “important it is that the GMC can explore whether a potentially dangerous medical professional who is still practising may be unfit to do so”.
The question led to Cooper securing a meeting with the minister and the newly-appointed Patient Safety Commissioner Henrietta Hughes.
“I’m due to meet with the Health Minister and Patient Safety Commissioner to discuss these issues and intend to press the point that the Government can’t stay silent on this issue any longer,” Cooper told Byline Times.
The new data from the Met Police and Kent Police did not break down incidents depending on whether they took place on a hospital ward or in the wider hospital estate, such as car parks.
However, previous Freedom of Information responses from 18 police forces revealed that, between January 2019 and September 2022, at least 633 sexual offences reports took place on hospital wards across England and Wales.
During this time period, there were 36,879 mixed-sex accommodation breaches across the NHS. This does not include data from the period between March 2020 and October 2021, when reporting was suspended due to the pressures of the Coronavirus pandemic. In London alone, between January 2019 and September last year, there were more than 9,000 mixed sex accommodation breaches across the capital’s hospitals.
It is not the case that mixed-sex accommodation breaches are the cause of sexual assaults and rapes. Some of the reported offences taking place on wards will have been between members of the same-sex, and against staff members. However, mixed-sex accommodation breaches are cited as a cause for concern when it comes to patient safety and wellbeing, hence the ban.
The new data brings the total number of police forces which responded to Byline Times’ Freedom of Information request to 33 out of 43 in England and Wales.